Return of the Cafe Racers - Norton Dominator SS Roadtest

Norton Dominator SS Roadtest

It’s been almost 2 years since I first posted pictures of the Norton Domiracer. Since then Norton has produced and sold a short run of the track ready beasts. Due to popular demand in 2015, they’re bringing back the legend as the road ready Norton Dominator and Dominator SS. It’s a Cafe Racer enthusiasts wet dream and I’ve been lucky enough to get a scoop ride review from my friends at Bike Social in the UK. So sit back and take a ride on one of the very first Dominator SS Norton’s to roll out of the factory…

 

“Ride past the grand Norton sign, and down the long driveway of the Norton factory at Donington and you step into their world. A world of design, metal and love for the Norton brand that goes way beyond a badge on the tank. The factory at Donington Hall is always buzzing. It’s the home of the historic British brand and just walking in brings the Norton name to life. In reception sits a Norton trials bike and a timeline of their history from 1898, to more recent events like in 2008 when new owner Stuart Garner bought the name. From that humble beginning of a reborn brand, Norton is now selling motorcycles to Japan, America and Australia once again. And they’re all built here in the heart of England.

I’m here to ride Number 1 in the production of the new Norton Dominator SS. It’s a production ready version of the Domiracer. Though the basic silhouette is the same, dig deeper and the level of detail is not quite to the same level as the ornate brackets and finishing on the Domiracer. But it’s still a stunning motorcycle.

While I’m waiting the lads at the factory attach the trade plate to the Dominator, then run it up on the dyno to check everything is in order before throwing me the keys. The Dominator makes the same unforgettable growl as the uncorked version of their Norton 961cc. Grown men cover their dogs’ ears as I passed, children screamed, old ladies took cover. I was only doing 30mph. Luckily, I learnt my lesson from my last time on a Norton and put earplugs in, such is the deep racket of the Dominator with its aftermarket race pipes. More sensible pipes are at least available for this model. They have to be to meet noise limits and the law, but If you want sensible, then don’t buy a limited edition homage to a sixties Café Racer. However, if you want an authentic old school experience but with the reliability of a modern motorcycle then step this way.

The motor pulses, the tubular steel chassis that is hand built at the back of the factory is stiff, and you feel like it’s a living breathing fiery motorcycle. There’s not a load of power, it only makes a claimed 80bhp after all, but there’s enough to be bowling along at 80mph on a sunny day, and still have plenty left in the tank. It’s crisp on acceleration and pops and bangs on the overrun just like it should.

As it was a brand new bike, owned by Norton’s CEO, I never pushed it really hard. But ride it quickly and the Dominator is rewarding. It’s revving out about 8000rpm, and really there’s little point in going above 6500rpm where power tails off. The modern Ohlins forks feel supple and plush. The rear shock is fully-adjustable and set quite firm. The Brembo brakes are high-spec and have a lovely feeling to them. They’re really progressive right until the point when front tyre will squeal if you try. There’s no ABS, and it doesn’t need it. There’s not much weight to pull-up, and plenty of feel. This is pure motorcycling, sixties style but with modern kit.

The biggest difference between this and the Domiracer to the untrained eye is that the detailing isn’t quite to the same obsessive level, but it’s still a work of art. From the machined top yoke, the black engine, the polished engine covers, the hand-laced spoke wheels, and that petrol tank which mimics original Café Racers right down to the angle of the fuel cap, the Dominator SS should be in a museum, or a film with talk that it may be in the next James Bond film (it appeared in the back of a James Bond Instagram pic).

Norton tell us that all Dominator SS versions for the UK are now sold-out, I’ve seen the list of the 50 lucky people who are buying them, but it’s always worth an enquiry in case anyone drops out.
The £19,000 Norton Dominator will become a production model, so approach the factory about buying one of those instead if you’re interested.” – Marc Potter, Bike Social

Full Dominator SS &Dominator Specifications:
Production numbers:  50 units / 200 units (ongoing)
Priced:  £24,500 / £19,950 ($37,700USD / $30,700USD)
Tank:  Hand-made aluminium / Painted steel with option of union jack or chequer design
Exhaust:  Euro 3 standards stainless exhaust with megaphone style mufflers
Suspension: Ohlins forks and rear mono-shock
Brakes:  Brembo monobloc
Engine: 961cc parallel twin
Power:  80bhp

Additional design features of the SS: 
Polished yoke set and instrument surrounds, polished rear sprocket, billet foot controls, carbon airbox, carbon tail end with union jack livery, carbon front mudguard, flyscreen and rear wheel hugger.

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